The official blog of Evergreen's Master of Environmental Studies degree

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“February” officially changed to “Financial Aid-uary” for MES students

by Gail Wootan, MES Assistant Director.

Did you know MES has more than $111,000 to give away to MES students for 2016-17?

And, did you know that only 13 students out of 74 Fall 2015 MES applicants applied for our highly-coveted Bilezikian fellowship last year (which, may I remind you, covers almost the entire cost of in-state tuition for two years)?  That’s like turning down the amount of money Mark Zuckerberg spends on his yearly hoodie budget!

So, I thought I’d write a MESsages post to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.  Here’s the thing: applying for scholarships, fellowships and grants is not anyone’s idea of a good time, especially when we live in the Cascade-peaked Pacific Northwest with its abundance of snowy hills to roll down, rivers to fish, and bike paths to ride, but I’ll tell you what’s an even worse time, and that is paying back student loans.  You may have heard the news a few years ago that student loan debt exceeded credit card debt in the U.S.  Well, it’s true, and it won’t be changing anytime soon.  So, what are you going to do about it? Easy – you’re going to apply for MES Financial Aid by March 1!

We know that applying for financial aid is about as fun as writing a thesis, so that’s why MES made our application process as easy as possible.  Here’s how:

  • No need for a financial aid application for some of our awards. People who apply for Fall 16 admission by February 15 will  have their admission application reviewed for two types of awards: All applicants will be considered for an academic achievement award worth a third of their tuition for two years, and nonresidents will be considered for the Evergreen Foundation Graduate Fellowship worth $4,375 for one year.fafsa
  • Just fill out the FAFSA to be considered for need-based aid. New and continuing students (U.S. residents only) who make sure their FAFSA is  processed by March 1 (submitted by mid-February), will automatically be considered  for more than $75,000 in tuition waivers.  And, to sweeten the deal for Washington residents, Evergreen will also award the Evergreen Need Grant (worth up to $2,100) to students with the highest need (basically $0 Expected Family Contribution). For about the amount of time it takes you to clean your house in avoidance of writing that paper due tomorrow, you could be telling your mom the good news that your tuition bill will be about 25% less than expected.
  • Are you or were you an AmeriCorps Member? Do you know how to write your name? And click on a few buttons? Great, because we offer an automatic $500/year scholarship (up to two years) for each year of AmeriCorps service.  Only catch – you need to fill out the world’s easiest financial aid application by March 1.
  • Short essays. If you’re feeling a little more sassy and verbose, you can apply for a number of scholarships that require an essay.  What will you get for your 100-500 words? Anywhere from $500 to $17,000. I guarantee this is a better rate per word than the Cooper Point Journal pays its best journalists.

So let’s say you somehow managed to miss our financial deadline of March 1. Not to fear, as there are a number of scholarships and fellowships to be had – you just need to do a bit more sleuthing.  MES can also help you on this one:

  • Subscribe to MES Weekly.  We list scholarships there.  Oh yeah, and jobs and internships.
  • Read your email from yours truly.  Seriously, one of my emails can change your life.  Ask Obama about it.  Or your grandma, for that matter.
  • Apply for the Evergreen Sustainability Fellowship.  You can get up to $4,000 for any sustainability project proposal.  The application is due every February for a Spring fellowship.  In fact, our application is available right now for current MES students.  The $4,000 will just be plopped right into your Evergreen Financial Aid account, covering anything that Evergreen has charged you for, including those overdue library books.
  • Grab yourself your laptop covered in stickers that would make Donald Trump turn a new shade of red, about 1.5 gallons of coffee, and your favorite shabby-chic chair at any Olympia coffee shop and go through this list of outside scholarships and read this webpage as thoroughly as possible. Will some of the links be broken? Absolutely. Will you find a scholarship for single-parents of color who have adopted at least three rescue horses who live in Klickitat county with an interest in rare Amazonian orchids? You bet.  Is there a scholarship for you? You won’t know until you look.
And hopefully you need to search for those loose coins you hear banging around in the dryer.

And hopefully you won’t need to search for those loose coins you hear banging around in the dryer.

Can I guarantee that you’ll completely cover all of your tuition and living costs through scholarships, fellowships, tuition waivers, and grants?  Sadly, no. But I can guarantee that you definitely won’t cover ANY of your grad school costs with non-loan aid if you don’t at least try one of my suggestions.

After all, student loans are not the end of the world (climate change already has that covered), and Evergreen offers a number of paid internships and assistantships to help reduce them even further. And, don’t forget, if you work in public service for 10 years (which you all know you’re destined for, right?), you may have your loans forgiven. After all, taking out a little bit of loan money now so that you can choose the organic, gluten-free, grass-fed soba noodles from the Olympia Co-op over the Grocery Outlet expired ramen from 1987 just may be worth it for a few years.

Lighting a SPARK with Social Marketing

By Anna Rhoads, 2nd year MES student and MES Recruitment Assistant.

“Research before you make assumptions!” McKenna Morrigan stated in her presentation on how to make apartment residents better recyclers. Morrigan’s study found that apartment residents she studied simply needed more recycling bins at their complex to divert recycling from the trash, refuting assumptions that apartment residents are lazy or do not know how to recycle. Her presentation’s theme stuck with me throughout the rest of the SPARKS Social Marketing Conference on the importance of researching a specific population before making assumptions about their behaviors.

The conference occurred on a brisk Monday in December at the Museum of Flight Museum in Seattle. I had heard about the conference from Jean MacGregor, my environmental education elective professor. She encouraged me to attend, due to my growing interest in social marketing. Social marketing applies marketing principles and techniques to influence behaviors that benefit individuals, as well as society. Many non-profits and state agencies are adopting social marketing strategies to protect the environment and improve the health of communities. I studied social marketing during my undergrad, but my interest in this field sparked after spending the last quarter researching social marketing techniques used in the transportation demand management field. Why am I drawn to this field? I like that social marketing can be an effective, research driven tool used to persuade people to slightly (or drastically) change a behavior that could benefit the environment.


Attendees at the SPARKS conference

I initially thought I couldn’t attend the conference due to the cost of admission. However, conferences often offer volunteer or scholarship positions for students. After inquiring, I was offered a volunteer student position, which included free admission and lunch! My volunteer duties were to help with set-up, work the registration table, and be a timekeeper during the presentations. I thought that volunteering may prohibit me from getting the most out of the conference, but it actually worked in my favor! I was able to network with fellow social marketers during the set-up (a few of them MES alumni!), meet professionals in the field (and a local celebrity; Dave Ross, a radio personality) during registration, and was able to listen in on all of the sessions due to my timekeeper responsibilities. I also met two other friendly student volunteers from Western Washington University, who are studying public health. It was great to meet other students interested in social marketing.

It was also promising to see several MES alumni at the conference, using social marketing in their line of work. Many of them have careers that I aspire to have after I graduate from MES. I was also amazed at how many people knew MES alumni from work or other conferences. When my fellow conference goers saw on my name tag that I am an MES student, I heard several great stories about MES alumni that they had worked with in some capacity. To put it bluntly, MES alumni are taking over the world (or at the very least, the Pacific Northwest)!

In conclusion, I highly recommend that students do their research beforehand to see if there are any volunteer positions or scholarships at a conference, before paying the big bucks. My volunteer experience at the SPARKS Social Marketing Conference was enriching, as I met more people than I would have if I simply attended the conference. I would also recommend for students to see if their master’s program offer any funding for professional development. Our Master of Environmental Studies Association (MESA) offer funding for professional development or research to students in our program. I also realized that with 700+ MES alumni working in the environmental studies field or living in the Pacific Northwest, you are bound to make connections at Pacific Northwest conferences, workshops, or at community events with fellow Greeners!

A Day in the Life of an MES Ambassador

By Josh Christy, 2nd Year MES student and MES Ambassador.

“The GRE is not that bad.”

Joshua at a recent poster session (in grey).

Joshua at a recent poster session (in grey).

This is what I end up saying to prospective students. A lot. Working as an ambassador for MES has a variety of roles: sharing deadline dates with applicants, talking to prospective students at conferences, convincing people that the GRE is not that bad, and calling prospective students and leaving lots of voicemails. I feel as though I get as much out of the conversations with prospective students as they do.

“What I get from being an ambassador is a strong sense of purpose.”

When I tell people about the interdisciplinary nature of the program or how awesome evaluations are, it reminds me why I am here and why I am doing what I am doing. Sometimes in the midst of a quarter when assignments are due it can be difficult to remember these things but being an ambassador really helps with perspective.

Image of MES ambassador Yonit Yogev talking with Gail Wootan, MES assistant director, at Evergreen's Academic Fair as she waits for prospective students.

MES ambassador Yonit Yogev talking with Gail Wootan, MES assistant director, at Evergreen’s Academic Fair as she waits for prospective students.

Becoming an ambassador was not something I originally had planned on doing. I had hesitations about time commitment and that I live in Tacoma. In fact, when they asked for applications to be an ambassador I did not even apply. It did not rethink it until Gail Wootan, the MES assistant director, called me a few weeks before school started asking if I was interested in the position. On the phone with Gail, it was actually a quick decision to say yes and all the obstacles I had put in my way did not seem that important anymore. That brings me to another perk of working as an ambassador: you get to work with Gail. Gail is detail-oriented and energetic and she transfers these strengths to all that work with her. Now that I have been working as an ambassador, all the hesitations seem silly, and I am very glad that Gail called me.

Olympia, Washington: Bees, Readings, & More Readings

By: Stephen D’Annibale, 1st year MES student

Welp, it has been about seven months since my last post, and quite a lot has happened since then. In June, ­I moved to Olympia from San Diego and began a job in Shelton conducting knotweed surveys in the riparian areas around the Skokomish River. It was a pretty good summer and it was nice to learn about the communities and the wooded areas around Mason County. I couldn’t believe how overgrown some of the forests were around here! Battling through thorny blackberry was a lot of work and so was running away from angry wasps! I must have gotten stung at least thirty or forty times. After a busy summer of bushwhacking, the first quarter of school finally began.

“I must have gotten stung at least thirty or forty times.”

IMG_4874Class is good, our professors are wonderful, and both cohorts are made up of some are really great folks. We have been assigned oppressive amounts of reading (just kidding) and writing, and it can be pretty overwhelming at times, but everything is coming along splendidly. The course material has been illuminating and I have certainly been learning a lot. Both cohorts had the opportunity to get to know each other pretty well during the MES field trip to Forks, where we learned about the forests of the Olympic Peninsula. We went on a spectacular hike, and some folks saw a gray whale, which sounded pretty majestic. It was a cold and rainy weekend, but we all had a great time.IMG_4869

These past few weeks have been pretty hectic. I have been working on two projects for gCORE and my elective. Both of the projects require many hours of research and writing, but they have come along nicely. My gCORE group and I have been writing about Low Impact Development practices to reduce the polluting effects of stormwater runoff. In our research, we visited the Washington State University Stormwater Center in Puyallup. Here we visited with workers in the Low Impact Development Stormwater Research Program who taught us about innovative methods to reduce runoff and they showed us their ingenious permeable pavements. We also had the opportunity to speak with the director of public works department in Olympia as well as specialists from the Department of Ecology. These experiences were very informative and helped us write a successful report.

“My experience so far at Evergreen has been great.”


Author Stephen D’Annibale and classmate Mirko Clarke

And now it is finally the end of the quarter. I have been reading and writing non-stop and I have been putting together my portfolio. I am pretty surprised at the amount of work we accomplished this quarter! Our presentations were successful and now it will be nice to have a little break from the activity. All in all, my experience so far at The Evergreen State College has been great, and I am enjoying every moment. Olympia is a fine little town, and I have been quite content since my arrival. I am excited to continue learning more as the school year progresses.

See you all in class!!!

*All photos courtesy Arielle Simmons

Director’s Note


A portion of first and second year MES students with Kevin on the Ozette Triangle hike. Credit: Sadie G.

MES students within the same cohort tend to form close bonds as they tackle core classes, candidacy papers and thesis research. Students in different cohorts have some opportunities for interaction in electives, “late night seminars” and MESA activities. However, I heard from MES students last year that they wanted even more collaboration and conversation between cohorts.

We started the school year with an ambitious experiment: taking both cohorts on a three-day field trip to the Olympic Peninsula! Our caravan—80 people, 9 vans—departed one early Thursday morning for the Elwha River. (We left on time, which bodes well for the next two years, especially given the number of students who were in electives until 10 the night before!) We spent the day touring key sites on the Elwha River dam removal project—learning about revegetation at the former Lake Aldwell, salmon habitat restoration at the former Elwha Dam site, and research on sedimentation and ecosystem changes at the mouth of the river.

We spent the next two nights at the Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks, where the staff worked with us to expand their “maximum capacity” of 50 by converting conference rooms to dorms and allowing us to pitch tents along covered patios and walkways. For those of us who camped outside, this covering was a blessing when we were hit by heavy wind and rain.


Gray whale off the coast of Cape Flattery. Credit: Mirko C.

We split into two smaller groups the next day. One group visited the Makah Museum, where students were impressed by a gray whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling, and Cape Flattery, where students were mesmerized by a gray whale swimming back-and-forth just off the rocky coastline below them. The other group hiked the Ozette Triangle, which includes a three-mile stretch of rugged beach and steep headland.

Our field work on the third day was cancelled because of high winds. We stayed inside, discussing William Dietrich’s The Final Forest and hearing from a Washington Department of Natural Resources biologist about experimental forests and habitat for threatened species like the marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl. As we drove back through the hard rain, I was thankful for two days of decent weather in early October and the can-do attitude of our students—essential for making possible this kind of logistical adventure.


MES students exploring the beach trail.

Our robust enrollment (44 first-year students, 34 second-year students) speaks to the continuing relevance of MES as a pathway to environmental work. To meet this continuing student demand, we are in the midst of hiring three permanent faculty dedicated to the MES program. Last year Dr. Erin Martin, who has taught in MES since 2012, was hired for the first position through a competitive national search. Erin has expertise in biogeochemistry, climate science, chemical oceanography, and freshwater ecology. She also brings tremendous enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring graduate students. This year we are conducting a search for an ecologist; next year we plan to search for an environmental social scientist. This faculty team should provide a nucleus of excellent teaching, mentoring and leadership in MES for years to come.

Equally important to our continuing success is the MES alumni network. One upcoming event, our third annual Thesis Idea Fair, is a great example. Dennis Aubrey, MES 2013, approached me two years ago with the idea of an event where local government agencies and NGOs could pitch their most pressing research questions to students who were thinking about topics for their candidacy papers and thesis projects. He offered to organize the event; I embraced the idea. This year’s event took place on November 10, 2015, and included representatives (many of them MES alums) from more than a dozen environmental organizations. We look forward to this continued event and other similar MES alumni partnerships.


Impressing the Ladies: Environmental Education takes on NW Trek

By Carrie Frazier, 1st Year MES Student.

“So, why do you think the Bighorn Sheep have such enormous horns?”

“To impress the ladies!” replies the eager boy in the front row of the tram tour line.

As a child compares his own hand size to the imprint of the lynx paw-print, “Their paws are just like ours! We’re almost the same!”

In response to the cougar snoozing in the far corner of its enclosure, “It’s his bed time. Goodnight, cougar! He’s probably had a long day.” As if to say, the cougar has had a rough day working his 9-5.

These were just a few snippets of the comparisons to our own human tendencies overheard from our Environmental Education class field trip to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in October.

As a native to the East Coast, I was eager to see what the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums)-accredited NW Trek had to offer in terms of native species. On the trip, there was talk of wolves, bears, lynx, cougars, eagles, snowy owls, wetland critters, and even a moose calf which coincidentally was born on the park’s 40th anniversary.

Before the trip, I had flashbacks of my own childhood experiences with wildlife; of entire disposable cameras being devoted to the white tigers at the Cincinnati Zoo, of my own big cat stuffed animal collection, and many attempts to convince my family that I was, in fact, part wild cat. Being so transfixed with animals as a child has led me to be curious about how children today respond to experiences with nature and wildlife. Do kids still mimic the sounds and movements of their favorite animals to convince others that they are part human, part wild animal? Are stuffed animals still dragged along on every outing? Do disposable cameras still exist? I hope so.Elk

My first view of NW Trek was a giant moose statue donning a pink bunny costume in what looks to be an attempt to partake in the Halloween festivities. This was the first of many anthropocentric examples I experienced in the park that day. The eager boy who responded that the Bighorn Sheep were trying to impress the ladies was a perfect example of anthropomorphism. Instead of the response that the male sheep were attracting a potential mate in an effort to carry out their breed, he replied with a very human response. The sheep were simply trying to impress the ladies, to pick up a date for this Friday night. That’s what anthropomorphism gets at, taking our own human tendencies and letting them influence our perceptions of animals. While the boy in the tram line was more than likely making an amusing comparison, it made me start to listen in on how those around me were taking in the park.

During our tram tour of the 435 acres of free-range meadows and forests, I noticed a child that had brought along her own stuffed moose for the tour. She held it up to the window of the tram and excitedly repeated, “Moose! Moose!” I was envious of her curiosity and zeal. I made a mental note to call home for an update of the whereabouts of my own stuffed animal collection.

As the tram tours begins we observed Bighorn sheep on the side of the road who are unperturbed by the presence of the tram car and our human faces smashed against the windows for ample viewing pleasure. We passed Roosevelt Olympic Elk with some of the largest antlers I have ever seen, herds of buffalo with large eerie eyes that watch the tram car as we ride by, and ultimately come to a halt to get a glimpse of a moose. This was the first moose I have seen in my life, but instead of taking in the large animal, I was curious of how the girl with her mini replica moose will respond. Again with the “Moose! Moose!” mantra. She excitedly compared her own stuffed moose to the real deal. Her gaze shifted back and forth between the two. I wondered if this was her first moose too. She pressed her face (and mini-me moose) against the window as the tram tour rolls on.

PullingTeethLater that day I was at the red fox habitat, where I noticed a photograph of our human teeth in comparison to that of the fox. A group of children approached the display and quickly compared their own human bite to that of the fox. Just like the lynx paw-print, there is a sense of comparing us to them, humans to the wild. While not every case at the zoo was an anthropocentric one, I noticed a trend in the way people were identifying the animals. People were observing the animals in ways that were relative to their own human lives.

I realized that this is how sense of the unknown or “wild” is made. We take the knowing and apply it to the unknown. While the Bighorn sheep impressing the ladies could be considered a little too far out there in making sense of the unknown, I find other indications of this learning style. The girl with her tiny moose made sense of the actual moose by a simple compare and contrast. The children who compared their own teeth to that of the fox were making their own comparison of the difference between what a fox needs to rip apart meat, and what we humans need to bite into a slice a pizza. Learning is made easier when we go into an experience taking what knowledge and understanding we already have and apply it to the understanding of a new concept. A professor once explained it as having an information “box” in which we assimilate new knowledge into the preexisting “box”, or maybe we create an entirely new box. The children looked at their different knowledge “boxes” and added new information to their “fox box.” Maybe information was first pulled from their preexisting box of human teeth? It all seems to be a matter of comparing the concrete known to the impossible unknown.

After the visit to NW Trek I came home with a notebook full of remarks and observations. Some people were quick to turn away from the sleeping cougar, but others would stay and make their own observations of the sleepy feline. During this time at the cougar habitat I overheard a young girl telling her mother her view on NW Trek. “It doesn’t feel like a zoo, or even look like one. I don’t feel like I’m being told what to do, or where to look. It’s nice.”

If you’re curious of the comparison of your own stuffed animal to that of the real deal, bring it along and make your own observations at NW Trek.

For more information check out their website at

Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change Conference

By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year MES Student & Secretary/Treasurer for the Clean Energy Committee.

Through the campus Clean Energy Committee, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change (BECC) Conference in Sacramento, California from October 18-21st.  BECC had 700 attendees that drew a national and international audience. There is a counterpart to BECC that is held in Japan every few years and many of the Japanese professionals, scholars, and graduate students were present for the American BECC conference. Organizations closer to Olympia, like Puget Sound Energy, Cascadia Consulting Company, and City of Seattle representatives were also present at BECC.  


California State Capitol & Museum

BECC provided many opportunities to network with professionals and academics that focus on energy efficiency. The conference opened with a kick-off party and dessert bar, which featured trivia questions about energy policy that allowed attendees sitting at the table to interact and get to know each other before the sessions started. Breaks between sessions were thirty minutes long and allowed plenty of time to ask speakers questions or to introduce yourself to another person at the conference and have a lengthy conversation. A special lunch was set aside for students, where we all introduced ourselves and what campus we were from. I was able to meet many other Masters and Doctorate students. I met a student from Northern Arizona University (NAU) who is in a Master’s program that I was accepted to, but declined admission for Fall 2014 since I wanted to be in MES. I would have been in that student’s cohort if I had ended up attending NAU. It can be quite a small world sometimes.
Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge over Sacramento River.

One of the highlights of BECC was the keynote speaker, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, from the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University. Dr. Tucker spoke on the importance of faith groups around the world and their relations to the environment. Dr. Tucker provided contemporary examples, like the widespread influence of Pope Francis’ encyclical. There were also a few sessions throughout the conference on reaching out to faith groups about climate change issue or pressing environmental concerns. Along with religion and ecology, sessions covered diverse topics such as: automated vehicles, energy efficiency within the military, communicating climate change, electric vehicles, energy policy, and creating community programs to increase energy efficiency in the home or office. BECC also featured lightning sessions, where speakers had five to eight minutes to cover their topics, and it provided a great way to learn about various studies in a short amount of time. More information on BECC can be found on their website. Next year’s BECC conference will be in October 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Clean Energy Committee is a vital resource for The Evergreen State College.  The Clean Energy Initiative was voted on by Evergreen students in 200CEC5 and the initiative passed with 28% student participation and 91% in favor of the Clean Energy Fee, which is $1 per credit. Most of the money is put towards purchasing green tags for Evergreen and the rest is divided between programs and student, faculty, and staff project ideas. The Clean Energy Committee (CEC) was established to oversee and decide how the rest of the money will be spent. The CEC has hearings twice a quarter where applications are reviewed and projects may be funded. All of the CEC meetings and hearings are open to the public. For more information on the campus Clean Energy Committee, visit the CEC Website.

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My Narrow Slice: A Story Map Experience

By Ryan Hobbs, 2nd year MES student and MES Communications Assistant.

This year both the first and second year cohorts embarked on a joint-cohort field trip to the Olympic Peninsula. We spent three days exploring areas of the Elwha River, learning about forestry practices, and many of us took on a lovely 9.5-mile hike on the Ozette Triangle. Apart from being a great learning experience, it was also a chance for the cohorts to combine powers and bond, which seemed to be a barrier for previous cohorts. This story map presents a condensed version of my experiences on the field trip. I tried to document the aspects that were most intriguing to me that would also be interesting to the reader. I’m sure many of us shared similar sentiments about the trip and I’m sure there were also different things that resonated stronger than others. I decided to do something unconventional and create a story map. I did this partially out of interest of learning something new, but also because I wanted to present a visual experience. I used my cellphone for all the photos and I would have loved to include a time lapse but I didn’t have the storage available. Enjoy!

Button for linking to story map

The Art of Science: Or how I learned that regression curves can be (partially) based on intuition

By Rebekah Korenowsky, 2nd year MES student.

This summer I was fortunate enough to take on an internship with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The task involved hydrologic modeling of 14 gauged stream sites in the Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF). I was put up to it by my great friend, Michele, who had already been working for DNR in various capacities. She heard they were looking for someone with hydrology experience. Luckily at some point in the past, I must have told Michele about my interest in water and how it flows over rocks, because she got me in contact with Teodora “Teddy” Minkova, OESF’s research and monitoring manager and the rest is somewhat history.


The author engaged in field work.

The OESF has a non-contiguous area of 270,000 acres on the western Olympic peninsula of mostly temperate rain forest. It also boasts a dense stream network and an average precipitation rate of 140 inches/year, steep terrain, quick growing trees, and habitat for Northern Spotted Owls, Marbled Murrelets and salmon. Needless to say this place is special, and I was stoked to be asked to work there.


Data, data, and more data.

The project I was tasked with was to create rating curves for 14 headwater basins spread throughout the forest. Rating curves are regression plots used in hydrology to relate the height of the water to the volume of water flowing through a particular cross-section of the stream. My project proposal also required a report at the end to summarize my findings and provide some guidance for OESF researchers to continue. What all this beauty and forest was actually going to represent for me was a long summer spent in a cubicle in an office staring at multiple computer screens and learning a new programming language.

I didn’t realize, though, that I was totally into that. This was my first 9-5 job in an office, and I learned to love the ritual of it all. As the title of this post suggests, doing hydrologic statistics turns out to be more of an art than a science at some point. I had to make decisions on when the channel changed so significantly that the rating curves were no longer relevant, but without any number or percent threshold for making that determination. I spent a lot of time flipping back and forth between the various graphs that another OESF researcher, Warren Devine, helped me to create in R (and with a lot of work in JMP as well – so pay attention in Research Design and Quantitative Methods, kids!). I was attempting to figure out just what exactly had happened to the flow and channels at certain points in the past. It was thrilling, like solving a mystery. When the graphs all finally started to make sense, I was able to determine if erosion or bed aggradation had occurred and in some cases even pinpoint the storm that moved all that sediment around.

As cool as this project was, it was also extremely time consuming. The report was originally suggested at 10-15 pages, and as I write this blog post it currently sits at 188 pages, including the many, many graphs that we created. That’s longer than most master’s theses, and it’s still not even finished!


Using a fisheye lens to characterize canopy cover in the experimental forest.

I think a large part of the reason for my incredible productivity stems from all the support that I received. Teddy is the supervisor that most people could only dream of; she gave me the space to really dig in and learn things on my own, but was always there with answers when I needed them. And as mentioned, Warren was integral in getting all of the data organized and visualized, as well as to listen to me talk through my many hypothesized interpretations. I also received guidance from Greg Stewart, a geomorphologist with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, as OESF did not have any hydrologists on staff at this time. Greg was the one who was able to help me figure out what needed to be done and how.

In my notes from a phone conversation I had with Greg I wrote, “Reports take time!” and I think that may be the most solid advice anyone has ever given me. I feel immensely more prepared to write my thesis after going through this experience and am looking forward to working on projects such as this in the future.

For more info on the OESF you can go here:

Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences 2015

By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year MES Student.

I flew into San Diego International the morning of June 24, 2015, just in time for the start of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) 2015 Conference at the University of California, San Diego.  While taking the first year core class for MES, gCORE, I was talking with MES Professor Shangrila Wynn about my interests in Environmental Anthropology.  Professor Wynn recommended that I join the AESS listserv to learn more about opportunities within the field.  When the call for AESS abstracts went out, I applied to present right away.  I would not have thought I’d be attending the AESS conference less than a year later and meeting many of the people who are part of the email listserv, but I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to present a poster of my research.

AESS Poster Presentation

Author’s Poster Presentation at AESS

Along with the poster sessions, there were interdisciplinary workshops, presentations, and panel sessions at the conference.  I  attended a workshop led by Jennifer Joy, a writer and performer who routinely merges the worlds of theater and science.  The three hour workshop consisted of different games meant to keep environmental professionals and academics aware of how they are conveying their research, work, or message.  It also demonstrated that the way we carry ourselves determines whether our message is received with interest and validity.  In the end, it was a lively way to learn how to communicate my research while also meeting brilliant scholars from across the country.

The panel sessions were engaging and featured a wide variety of environmental disciplines.  My favorite panel session was “Reflecting on 30 years of collaborative teaching across disciplines in the Graduate Program on the Environment at The Evergreen State College,” which was presented by Evergreen professors Martha Henderson, Kevin Francis, Erin Martin, Shangrila Wynn, and Kathleen Saul.  In true Evergreen style, the panel session was moved from the tiny classroom that was originally assigned for the session to a location outdoors, where participants were able to enjoy the sun-kissed San Diego weather while learning about Evergreen’s interdisciplinary graduate program.  The setting provided a vibrant dialogue between Evergreen’s professors and representatives from different institutions of higher education.  It was fantastic to see Evergreen’s model and values articulated at the AESS conference.

My poster session was the evening of June 26, 2015.  I talked about my research with Professor Stacy Philpott, researcher Peter Bichier, and the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Urban Garden Project.  My poster, Correlates of native and invasive ant abundance in Central California Urban Gardens, received a wide array of comments, support, and inquiry.

The AESS conference was an invaluable experience and I was able to make connections with people who are passionate about environmental issues.  I hope to attend in 2016, when the conference will be held at American University in Washington, D.C.

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The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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